This is an open letter to all of my kids’ friends who use social networking sites like Instagram and Pinterest and Facebook. I need your help. My kids are always excited to log on and see what their friends (you) are posting and check out everything with serious interest. They watch every video and look at every photo and read every word. They want to be good friends to you, so they really want to “like” everything you post, because they know that’s what is important online — the more likes someone has means they are funny or popular or creative.
My kids want to ‘like’ you. They sincerely like their friends and so when you post a photo of yourself wearing very little or striking a pose, it makes them (and me) uncomfortable. They don’t know what to do. Do they “like” the post, as if to say, “Hey there, thanks for posting this really inappropriate picture of yourself. I like you, so I guess I like you in this picture, which makes me feel really awkward.” Or do they not like the post and then feel like they’re not supporting you as a friend?
It’s very confusing and difficult.
When you post those videos of yourself trying on different outfits and messing up your hair and kissing the camera, are my kids supposed to comment something funny or nice? It just feels weird so we don’t really know what sort of comment you’re looking for here. Maybe you should tell us what you want us to say?
When you post those pictures you find online that have funny sayings, and the sayings are actually putting other people down or making fun of women or men or people with disabilities, it makes my kids confused and upset. They are usually shocked to see those sorts of posts next to your name and never know how to respond. So that’s why they’ve never “liked” those posts. Now you know.
When my kids ask me why they have just 25 or 30 friends — all the kids from class, and yet you have 4,000, I don’t know what to tell them. They feel like you’ve been keeping all these good buddies a secret. If you accept anyone and everyone who asks, it makes us feel a little odd, because we’ve known you for years and pretty much know everyone you know and we guesstimate that is around 50 people tops. So when you have 4,000 friends looking at your pictures and videos, we can’t help but wonder how you know so many people so well that you feel comfortable enough letting all 4,000 of them see your personal photos or whispering secrets into a camera. You’re obviously more popular than we realized, or maybe it’s just your very large extended family?
Because obviously, you wouldn’t want total strangers having access to your personal information like that, right? Naturally we all know that we don’t share information like our home address or when the entire family is out of town on vacation to total strangers. We would never give a stranger a picture of ourselves that some might consider inappropriate. You’re just trying to be funny with those posts and pictures, right? A stranger having that sort of detailed information could be dangerous. Not to mention, once the photo and videos are up online, strangers might even save them onto their computer forever. Or worse use them in some way that we wouldn’t like. I’m not saying one of your 4,000 close buddies would do that of course. But we don’t accept friends who are total strangers. Why would you?
So, I need help in telling my kids what to say to your posts. We haven’t met all of your 4,000 friends yet (but would love to someday). Maybe you could invite them all over to your next birthday party at the skating rink? Although they’re may not be enough skates for everyone.